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Never forget an off vintage

Sometimes we are told a vintage is “off” for various reasons. So that has an effect on prices and can also lead to the conclusion that no wines of that vintage will be worth bothering about beyond immediate drinking.
2004 Burgundy was one such vintage. It was in the shadow of 2005. All sorts of comments were made about its green unripe character. I remember that there were all sorts of reasons given by writers and critics asto why 2004 red Burgundy was a poor vintage
Here we are in 2022 and tonight I was served this wine blind. Hmm…I thought. It has ripe tertiary flavours good acidity, evolving complexity in the glass,a lovely finish. In fact it was terrific. Ok, it is grand cru, ok, it may be atypical, and woo hoo it was a stunner.
I am sure there are other poor 2004s but this was a terrific 2004 red Burgundy. Hats off to Tollot Beaut


Super glad you had a good experience on the vintage and sorry to divert the thread a little.

Your experience brings to mind the reverse for me, my exploration of top producers during poor years. My review at the time talked it up :slight_smile:

I did a half bottle of 2013 at another time too. Both left me thinking I’m drinking a fake or have been wine arbed

I can still recall the taste of it. Thin green disappointment


Whilst, of course, some will always produce good wine in poor years I feel the odds of a poor wine in such years is inevitably much higher. For someone like myself, who really doesn’t get through all that much wine (maybe 80 bottles a year), it just seems to make sense to focus on the better years where the odds swing in my favour. I will buy the occasional single bottles from poor years from producers I know and love but those few cases that I buy will only ever be from relatively good years.


By odd coincidence my off vintage story is of a burgundy from 2004, a Volnay, which was beautiful. But I was stung too often in the early days of wine buying by relatively expensive Bordeaux which looked cheap but was awful. If I can taste a wine and like it then fair enough, otherwise I tend to steer away, however hard the sell is.


For what it’s worth, just been working through Ch Beaumont 17s… think 17 wasn’t the best vintage and so was v pleasantly surprised to find it well on form and no real difference to the 16s we are also on with. Appreciate this is League 1 (or 2) stuff vs the Premier League drops discussed above but thought it might add to the wider point here.


2004 is also our year of success buying a top producer in a poor year, in our case Pavillon Rouge. After all the hype over the 2003 and 2005 vintages, the chance to buy a case of Ch Margaux, albeit their second wine, was irresistible. I cannot remember how much we paid but it was a pittance in comparison with the same wine from other vintages. We are still working our way through it and enjoying it very much. Is it the best claret we have ever tasted? No, that accolade belongs to Leoville Barton and Ducru Beaucailloux. But it was a sound investment in excellent claret that we have never regretted.


I think Margaux was decent in 2004. I had some very enjoyable Angludet from that vintage!


The point that Simon makes about the 17s is very true. There are off vintages and there are not quite first rate vintages. I really like the 88 clarets I have had, not a poor year, but not quite up to the next two. And 2000 in red burgundy, a much twitted year, I have had some lovely wines from. And a few meh ones too.


There are always exceptions of course, but Who > Where > When is still my rule of thumb.

Some vintages certainly put this to a tougher test than others, but in general it serves me well.


sometimes a downgraded vintage works in the retail buyer’s favour. In the occasional years when they don’t make Vino Nobile de M-P, mainly due to low yields, they put the harvest that would have gone into that cuvée into the Rosso de M-P which improves the standard of this cuvée and those are the vintages to buy. Although sadly this hasn’t happened for over a decade…
(this was told to me by the winemaker at Avignonesi; I’m not making it up ! )


So called off years can reward some peoples tastes. In Burgundy there is often a lot of ethereal fragrance in lighter years which is what some prefer to a more full on wine. But really awful years don’t seem to exist like they used to.


2021 is looking that way, surely? Or is it just quantity rather than quality that is down?

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I think it is a fair comment that recent vintages have been much more consistent than they used to be, pretty much across the classic regions and especially for Bordeaux. Nothing wrong with 2017 or 2004 for that matter, still decent years if not quite as good as those around them. The only outright poor year in the past couple of decades was 2013. I’m old enough to have started drinking vintages from the 60’s onwards and there was a lot of bad wine back then, we don’t tend to get years like '63 '65, 68, 69, 72, 74 and '77 or at least not so many in a mere couple of decades.

Climate change or better winemaking? I don’t know but for top wines in poor vintages, I do recall a '73 Latour being quite lovely, albeit in a lighter more approachable style. At the same time I also recall a Lafite '71 being disappointing beyond measure but that was a year that I think in hindsight, turned out as poor for all but a few.


As you say, before the 80s maybe there were some vintages that were pretty undrinkable, and I don’t think even 2013 is in that category. But, having said that, 1980 was supposedly awful and I the best bottle of my life was from 1980. It was all about fragrance, not power, though.


I have had little from 2013 but I suspect it is better by some margin than any of the vintages I listed. Even from back then I still remember how seriously poor 1974 was for example, given we had bought a a fair few bottles of quite decent chateau like Clos Fourtet and Leoville Barton from the chateau door.

Certainly 1980 was better than any of those years, lighter like the '73’s but offering good short term drinking and of course I don’t doubt a top winemaker could deliver high quality from that year, just as Latour did in '73.

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Completely agree about Tollot Beaut. 2004 was the first vintage I had from them. The red GCs were great after about 10 years. 1ers and villages though were light. Not my favourite year. However, I have had several 04 GCs in the last 12 months, which were much better than expected. I also had a Paul Jacqueson Les Naugues 1er which was outstanding. I’d still describe the vintage as “classic”.
For me Tollot Beaut are really good wines. We visit regularly to collect our annual allocation and taste with Nathalie Tollot in her cellar. Great value, particularly the Beaune Les Blanches Fleurs, village wine. My outstanding memory has been tasting the 2014 Corton Charlemagne from cask. My allocation was one bottle, later stretched to two!
Would be good to have TB listed by TWS.


It is! I’ve bought their Chorey straight off the list before.

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Vintage charts are a blunt instrument.

I have bought the same Chateaus every year, ‘poor years’ are ready for earlier drinking - which is welcome.

But how can you really appreciate a great vintage if you’ve not had the same wine from a poor vintage?


I actually look out for these vintages. The years have taught me to avoid the ones everyone raves about. Hype, low availability, more hype… And when they are finally ready 90% of the time they don’t live up to the exalted overhyped expectation.

Climate change also seems to favour the less “solare” vintages. I’ve loved my 14s from Tuscany, for example. Burgundy isn’t on my shopping list at all anymore, of course.

As regards Nebbiolo, I never see the point in buying the top vintages - they’ll probably outlast me and my palate, and I can’t imagine the warm vintages (11 is my favourite I think) won’t also last as long as I could ever want them to. Do keep a bit of an eye on the alcohol there, though.


I have one interesting problem with what @peterm suggests and that is Lidl’s had the off year 2013 Marquis de Treme 3rd class Bordeaux at £15. It was for a bad year very nice. Alas the good years are somewhat more expensive. Would love to drink the good years of the wines but suspect I have gone about this the wrong way to what Peter intended :slightly_smiling_face:

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